You Dont Have To Accept Compassion Fatigue And/or Burnout As The Costs Of Caring For Your Patients
Vidette Todaro-Franceschi tells us that, We do not have to accept compassion fatigue and/or burnout as the costs of caring with intention, we can make choices that help us to reaffirm our purpose and actively sidestep feeling dissatisfied and disenchanted with our work.
In her book, Compassion Fatigue and Burnout in Nursing: Enhancing Professional Quality of Life, she teaches a concept called ART: Acknowledge, Recognize, and Turn Outward, which she describes as reaffirming purpose as a healing model for our wounded workforce.
In her book, Todaro-Franceschi discusses ways to use ART for many different situations or purposes, which well look at closer. In every case, she states that when applying ART, you focus on awareness of turning points, connection to others , and ones place in the unfolding present.
The first application of ART is compassion contentment, or job satisfaction in a manner of speaking. This is the positive side of professional quality of life, the reasons we put on scrubs every morning and clock in at our practices. When you remain aware or mindful of the positive things in life, we can look to repeat those things and experience joy and happiness when they occur. Here is a brief explanation of applying ART to compassion contentment:
Next time, well explore moral distress, and how to be true to yourself by being true to your patients.
How Schwartz Rounds Can Be Used To Combat Compassion Fatigue
Alison Thompson Ward sister, Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, London
Alison Thompson reflects on an initiative that helps to maintain staff wellbeing and quality of patient care
Hospice nurses were the first to have some of their experiences described as compassion fatigue but this term can now be applied to all nursing staff in clinical environments. Compassion fatigue can suddenly render nurses unable to distinguish between their own emotions and those of their patients. This fatigue can result in staff becoming emotionally drained and therefore unable to provide high quality care. While nurses have to regain public trust in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust inquiry, this article considers whether or not Schwartz rounds, an initiative introduced from the US, can help maintain the wellbeing of staff and so protect the quality of patient care.
Nursing Management.20, 4, 16-20. doi: 10.7748/nm2013.07.20.4.16.e1102
Engage In Mindful Caregiving
Did you know compassion is a skill you can work on? There is a meditation called Loving-Kindness meditation by Tara Brach, and a study on it was done which resulted in increased altruism in participants. They developed compassionate thoughts and reflections which impacted compassionate action and deeds. Such mental activities led to changes in the brain. According to Feel Guide, People who received the compassion training showed increased activity in neural networks involved in understanding the suffering of others, regulating emotions, and positive feelings in response to a reward or goal.
You might think, Im burned out on compassion. Why would I want to do a compassion meditation? The point is to make yourself available to people with intention for compassion and to remove codependency and let go of control. Letting go is what does the work for you.
The Loving-Kindness Meditation by Tara Brach starts with:
May I be happy.
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Basic Steps For Preventing Compassion Fatigue
There is an analogy I use with my compassion fatigued clients and workshop participants to try and conceptualize the burnout process. I tell them it is like standing in the hot sun, for hours, with no hat, sunblock or shade, and willing yourself not to get sunburned. Eventually, despite your mental efforts, your body will pay the price. And so, unfortunately, can it be with helping others.
This blog will hopefully arm you with some tools and techniques that will act as your sunblock. Like the sun, our clients issues are not good or bad. Also like the sun, extended exposure can have a significant impact on our health. Therefore preparing ourselves prior to meeting with clients can help ensure ongoing enjoyment of the work we do.
Step 1: Educate yourself. Learn everything you can about the costs and challenges of helping others. Understand the trauma process, what secondary traumatic stress is, and the signs or symptoms of Compassion Fatigue and professional burnout. Having a good supervisor or mentor, who can help you navigate the balancing act of helping others while taking care of yourself, can be invaluable. Plus, it is not unusual for others to notice when we are feeling stressed or worn out before we do.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA
Create A Support System
Building and fostering a support system can help working nurses share their feelings and express their struggles.
“Keeping emotions and experiences bottled up creates mental barriers with your peers,” says registered nurse and blogger Emma Leigh Geiser. “When you share how you are feeling about your shift you can work through these emotions.”
Bassetti also recommends sharing with someone, and using someone to debrief after work, whether it’s a partner, a friend, or a coworker.
“Taking care of people is exhausting work,” she says. “Identify someone who will listen to you after your shifts so that you can set all of that weight down. It doesn’t hurt if they remind you of how wonderful you are, and how important your work is, either.”
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Meditation To Overcome Emotional Fatigue And Burnout
One study evaluated the effect of meditation on burnt-out and emotionally fatigued health professionals at a hospital. Twenty-seven residents, eight faculty physicians and 12 nurses participated in the study. 35 people completed a 12-week Heartfulness Meditation course, and 12 people were control subjects. The results were compelling:
- At 12 weeks, the meditators had statistically significant improvement in all measures of burnout and nearly all attributes of emotional wellness .
- Controls showed no statistically significant changes in either burnout or emotional wellness scores.
- Relative telomere length increased with statistical significance in a younger subset of meditators.
Its startling to note these effects were observed in just twelve weeks of the health professionals undertaking a meditation program. The speed at which the program became effective is motivating.
While this program was in a healthcare setting, it can be extrapolated to include every vocation. Whether you work in marketing, social work or government, youre bound to teeter on the edge of burnout and compassion fatigue at some point.
We have handpicked popular guided meditations by Insight Timer meditation teachers that help to reconnect with compassion and deal with feelings of overwhelm:
Are You Experiencing Compassion Fatigue
As psychologists continue to help those suffering from the impact of COVID-19, they should watch for signs of their own distress or burnout.
Are you experiencing compassion fatigue?
Psychologist Heidi Allespach, PhD, of the University of Miamis Miller School of Medicine, knows that the big hearts that propel people into psychology and other caregiving careers also put them at risk of developing compassion fatigue. Ironically, she explains, caregivers can become so over-empathic that they find themselves growing numb to their patients suffering. Thats why she urges the medical residents she teaches to develop what she calls a semi-permeable membrane around their hearts. Without enough of a shield, everything just comes in, says Allespach. And being overwhelmed with the feelings of others can feel like drowning.
Now Allespach and other psychologists are worried that psychologists are facing increased risks of compassion fatigue as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on.
Compassion fatigue occurs when psychologists or others take on the suffering of patients who have experienced extreme stress or trauma, explains Charles R. Figley, PhD, founder of the Traumatology Institute at Tulane University. It is an occupational hazard of any professionals who use their emotions, their heart, he says, and represents the psychological cost of healing others. Its like a dark cloud that hangs over your head, goes wherever you go and invades your thoughts, he says.
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The Important Role Of Self
While the work of a therapist or mental health practitioner can become emotionally, mentally, and physically draining, it is possible to reduce the likelihood or impact of compassion fatigue through the practice of self-care .
When therapists dont practice self-care, their ability to help others is compromised . Rather than a selfish act or a chore that gets dropped when time is tight, self-care is necessary to maintain a selfless, untroubled attitude with clients. According to Bush , it is an ethical obligation for professionals working toward their clients mental health.
We can approach self-care at two levels. Macro-self-care includes the bigger things in our lives: getting the sleep we need, eating well, taking vacations, focusing on relationships, and spending time doing the things we love. Each is important taken as a whole, they are essential. Micro-self-care involves the small stuff that can easily fit into the busiest of days: taking a moment to breathe, strengthening self-awareness, and practicing self-compassion.
Coaston recognizes therapists routine exposure to painful situations and overwhelming emotions and recommends developing an attitude of self-compassion, mindfulness, and regularly making time for oneself.
Self-care is crucial to therapists wellbeing and ability to function and continue to meet their clients needs, enabling them to refill and refuel in healthy ways .
Five Ways To Combat Compassion Fatigue
Therapists have the best advice to help others practice self-care and positive boundaries. But how often do you practice your own advice? Be honest: how often do you take time for yourself?
Its no surprise that research indicates mental health professionals frequently suffer from compassion fatigue. Carrying others burdens on your shoulders is no small task! But when youre burned out, you’re less able to connect emotionally. Meaning you arent bringing your best self to each session.
Youre likely inundated with the mandate to Take time for yourself! But, if it were just that easy, we wouldnt have research suggesting therapists are burning out at unprecedented rates. Would we? Youre managing a business on top of the demanding work of practicing therapy. But you do actually have to take time for self-care, so weve rounded up a few ideas to help you recharge that take as few as 40 seconds.
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Turn Off Push Notifications From News Sites And Unfollow Fear
Remember, you control your phone and devices, not the other way around. Take back control and choose what you see, and when you see it.
Push notifications take away your control, as news headlines and stressful tweets pop up on your phone even when youre not actively using it. If youre feeling overwhelmed, and think you may be struggling with compassion fatigue, disable push notifications. After a few days, youll feel the relief of accessing news and social media only when you choose to.
Scrolling through social media can be empowering when you follow great accounts, but it can also create plenty of bad emotions too, from jealousy to emotional fatigue. If you enjoy using Instagram for example, look through your feed and see how each account makes you feel. If it doesnt enhance your wellbeing or even make you think in a positive light, unfollow the account. Transforming what you include in your feed can have a huge effect on your mental health and levels of compassion fatigue.
Read more:Avoid content you know will trigger negative reactions is only one advice for conscious digital device usage. Explore principles and tips to raise consciousness in the digital age. Also, discover the phenomenon of phone-induced anxiety and how to overcome it.
Empathy Fatigue Or Compassion Fatigue Can Hit Any Counsellor Caregiver Or Therapist
Because it triggers certain fears and thoughts that represent those fraudulent schemas that we all secretly have, at least to some degree! This intellectual self-doubt can have even the most experienced and accomplished counsellor or caregiver feeling like an imposter what gives me the right to be hereI feel like a fake.
These thoughts can be quite confronting and difficult to talk about. And while they can surface for many reasons, compassion fatigue is a big one.
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The Cost Of Caring: 10 Ways To Prevent Compassion Fatigue
Compassion fatigue can be a serious occupational hazard for those in any kind of helping profession, with a majority of those in the field reporting experiencing at least some degree of it in their lives. This is no surprise, as it is typically those with the most empathy who are the most at risk.
Compassion fatigue is characterized by physical and emotional exhaustion and a profound decrease in the ability to empathize. It is a form of secondary traumatic stress, as the stress occurs as a result of helping or wanting to help those who are in need. It is often referred to as the cost of caring for others who are in physical or emotional pain. If left untreated, compassion fatigue not only can affect mental and physical health, but it can also have serious legal and ethical implications when providing therapeutic services to people.
While it is not uncommon to hear compassion fatigue referred to as burnout, the conditions are not the same. Compassion fatigue is more treatable than burnout, but it can be less predictable and may come on suddenly or without much warning, whereas burnout usually develops over time.
Because it can arise so abruptly, it can be important for therapists and others in the helping professions to protect themselves from this condition. Here are 11 ways to prevent compassion fatigue from happening to you:
Tests Scales Checklists & Questionnaires
Those in helping professions often consciously or unconsciously share the emotional burden of their traumatized clients as they encourage the healing process. As a result, it is easy to become overwhelmed and numb through secondary traumatic stress .
For mental health professionals, it can be helpful to use questionnaires and tests to provide a more objective score of the degree of compassion fatigue currently being experienced.
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Clear Difference: Compassion Fatigue Has A More Rapid Onset While Burnout Emerges Over Time Compassion Fatigue Has A Faster Recovery
Symptoms of Compassion Fatigue Affects many dimensions of your well-being Nervous system arousal Emotional intensity increases Isolation and loss of morale Depression and PTSD Loss of self-worth and emotional modulation Identity, worldview, and spirituality impacted Beliefs and psychological needs-safety, trust, esteem, intimacy, and control Loss of hope and meaning=existential despair Anger toward perpetrators or causal events
First, you should understand that its a process. Its not a matter of one day, youre living your life with a great deal of energy and enjoyment, and the next, you wake up exhausted and devoid of any energy both physical and emotional. Compassion fatigue develops over time taking weeks, sometimes years to surface. Basically, its a low level, chronic clouding of caring and concern for others in your life whether you work in or outside the home. Over time, your ability to feel and care for others becomes eroded through overuse of your skills of compassion. You also might experience an emotional blunting whereby you react to situations differently than one would normally expect.
When Helping Hurts by F. Oshberg, MD
How To Avoid Compassion Fatigue
Now that you know how to detect compassion fatigue, you can take steps to prevent it from ever appearing in the first place.
Hushmail partner Rob Reinhardt, LPCS, in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, founder of Tame Your Practice and creator of Describe Cards, has a few ideas on how to prevent compassion fatigue, or battle burnout, as he calls it.
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Find Proactive Ways To Help Others
The pandemic brings a lot of bad news, and it leaves a lot of us feeling powerless in our ability to actually help.
This increases the chances that, over time, you might feel the need to tune out from other peoples suffering.
Instead, try to find proactive things you can do that make a difference.
These can be small acts of kindness for friends and family, like mailing a care package or running errands for neighbors. You can offer to do this in community groups like Nextdoor.
You can also get involved with a charity or cause you believe in.
Burnout And Compassion Fatigue
Burnout is a special type of stress that caregivers and professionals may experience, including a sense of reduced accomplishment and physical and/or emotional exhaustion. Compassion fatigue encompasses a much greater level of stress and exhaustion, occurring as a result of helping others who experience emotional or physical pain, oftentimes referred to as the cost of caring however, someone presenting with compassion fatigue shows a significant decrease in the ability to empathize with others. Compassion fatigue is a type of secondary traumatic stress, which occurs as a result of helping or wanting to help others who are in need. Though they share similar features, burnout generally develops more slowly over a period of time, while compassion fatigue may have an unexpected onset and can occur without warning signs. Professionals and caregivers who experience compassion fatigue may react to situations differently from the way in which others typically respond, due to an erosion of compassion skills. A majority of individuals in any kind of helping profession experience at least some degree of burnout or compassion fatigue in their lives. Minimizing and managing ones stress are important for self-care and living life more fully. This leads to greater self-compassion, including self-kindness, mindfulness, and our shared humanity.
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